Category Archives: Student Trip Reports (archived)

HIV/AIDS Hospice 

By: Lacy Carter & Chloe Withers

Before coming on the Mayterm Thailand trip Lacy and I wrote a blog post on HIV/AIDS in Thailand so we felt well prepared for our visit to the HIV/AIDS Hospice. Little did we know what an emotional impact it would have on the both of us. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles” and the hospice was no exception. When we first walked into the treatment room all of the patients were so welcoming. It was incredible to see that even though these people were in pain and didn’t feel good, they could still manage to have a positive outlook on life. Everyone was so willing to share their stories with us. Continue reading HIV/AIDS Hospice 

Parade Day

By:  Joe Caesar & Cera Cantu

Preparation for the parade started early in the morning around 6. The theme of the day was patience. We had to wait to be called for makeup and hair to be done by some of the villagers. Once we were dressed we had to wait for the parade. All of us crowded into a house in the village to get our makeup done. There were village children there that wanted to play with us. They stole a lot of cellphones and took a lot of pictures. When we got our phones back we all had hundreds of pictures of the kids and all of us that the kids had taken. Continue reading Parade Day

Reflections on Ban Toong Ting

By: Olivia Start & Dagny Helander

Thai and English: two completely different languages with two completely different manuscripts. Despite the barrier, we discovered that no matter what language you speak, you can build bonds and relationships with nearly anyone. Upon arrival we expected to be greeted without hesitation or reservations from the students. As it turns out, not only were many of us out of our comfort zone, but the students were as well. That led to a dramatic increase in the difficulty of forming connections. It appeared that the kids were absolutely terrified of us and some of our group even thought they were disrespectful. However, the two of us among other students quickly learned that if there’s a will to get to know the kids, there is a way. Continue reading Reflections on Ban Toong Ting

Health clinics at Ban Toong Ting School

By: Nicole Roberts & James Bacigalupo

Along with the service projects at the Ban Toong Ting school, we were also able to help aid the Thai Nursing students with health checks. Health checks are extremely important, especially when done on the children of an area because they can tell a lot about the overall health of the community. Two of the most important areas of health to check are height and weight. Abnormal height or weight for a child can determine a great majority of health issues in a community. While helping the nursing students, we assisted in taking the height and weight of every student at the school. We then proceeded to check the body for scrapes or abrasions, or anything abnormal with physical features. Next, we would asses any of the scrapes or abnormal physical features and clean them up. Continue reading Health clinics at Ban Toong Ting School

Ban Toong Ting School

By: Rachel Wong and Liz Behrens

Upon arrival at the Ban Toong Ting school, the group had been briefed about the possible conditions of the school and surrounding village. We were prepared for anything! However, after a bumpy ride in the back of a pickup truck through the lush green mountains, we stumbled upon our home for the next five days, and we were shocked.  Not only was the school absolutely beautiful, being isolated on the top of a mountain, the conditions were far better than initially anticipated.  We were warmly welcomed by the students and teachers. Continue reading Ban Toong Ting School

Temple visits

By: Karsten Gillwald & Melody Van De Graff

Thais perform Buddhist worship at various holy sites throughout the country. We visited several of these sites ranging from traditional “wats” to simple worship sites.  A wat is a monastery or temple in Southeast Asia. All temples have a representation of the Thai Buddha in one of the seven positions (?), an open area in front of the Buddha for worship, offerings to the Buddha and some other form of decoration. Some temples had little more than this, while others were incredibly ornate and complex. Continue reading Temple visits

Two Worlds Within a Country

By: Hannah Hegwood and Morgan Lendway

Hannah:

Upon arrival in the first village of Kalasin, I quickly noticed the simplicity of everything. The road was barely paved, packs of dogs roamed and open pastures lead up to a magnificent mountain range. The simplistic way of life stemmed from the home: which was a one level, not vey ornamental, mostly one room humble abode. It served its purpose as a shelter and a comforting place, somewhere I could easily call home. Everyone here had hardened hands and works hard to maintain their lifestyles. The people here were obviously slightly influenced by our annual visits and some seem to be adopting some of our western ideas. We were greeted warmly with hugs and some girls even wore tank tops, not customary in the Thai culture. Some English was spoken, although harsh and broken, which created many communication challenges. It was interesting learning how to effectively communicate and realizing that the language of love, anger and other emotions are universal. I could tell when my homestay mother was being affectionate towards me when she touched my hair and smiled; I could also tell she was upset when I forgot to take my shoes off in the house.

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The place I will be comparing Kalasin to is the beautiful beach island of Ko Samet. We stepped off a speedboat into the warm blue/green water and saw resorts for as far as the eye could see. People walked with a relaxed step, lounged on the beach in barely any clothing and splashed around in the sea; the resort although simple had a clean and expensive appeal. A sandy road lead to a paved one that lead to what appeared to be main street, which had two seven-elevens (the groups favorite pit stop). Many shops lined the streets selling over priced souvenirs. Many other streets traveled along the coast and were heavily marked by hoping clubs.  The native Thai people living on this island that we interacted with were heavily influenced by the tourism they are surrounded by. Many of them spoke decent English and appeared well manicured. Many of the Thai people vacationing here didn’t look callused or had dark complexions, which in the Thai culture could be symbolic of wealth.Image

What I am trying to get across with my two previous paragraphs is the stark differences between living in a rural village and a tourist beach area. Never to say the western influences are bad, but that they create noticeable and life altering differences.

Morgan:

Thailand.  It is a place where you never know what to expect. I was lucky enough to experience this country in all the ways that it could possibly offer. With the first village, in Kalasin I could see a place, which was hard at work to get what they had, a place that didn’t receive things easily, they worked for their living. In past years, this village has had interactions with Westerners and I could only imagine what their lives had been like before ever interacting with people from the US. The villagers had simple occupations such as farmers, weavers, and fishermen. They lived a life of simplicity and were non-materialistic; they would only by what was absolutely necessary for them. Many of them didn’t even have the luxury of having a owning any means of transportation. They didn’t have the best means of health care when it came to caring for the wellbeing of some of the locals there. Another thing that really made this experience unique were the difficulties that came with trying to communicate with the people of Kalasin. Their Engilsh was broken and we had to go down to their level to speak with them in order for them to understand. Simple things live emotions of anger or happiness were an easy way to communicate because you could easily express it back.

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Now, the village in Kalasin to the island Koh Samet is absolutely mind altering. I went from a place of simplicity to a place greatly influenced by western culture.  On Koh Samet, the locals are exposed to other cultures and tourist attitude every day. They are so adapted that their English is so developed and able communicate at a much more sophisticated level; which is a lot to say in comparison to Phu Por. There are tourists everywhere, with such a large amount of western influence. The natives on Koh Samet seemed much more materialistic. I believe that is due to the fact that they were interacting with tourists every day they had to try and be as seen as figures of wealth and seen knowledge able. If you were to ask any local had come from, a majority would say that they come from a little village back on the main land. Which just shows that with this world change they have learned to be more like they people they were making their living off of.

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In the end, the differences between the villages and that of the island, one that stands would out like a sore thumb.  The western influence has taken its toll on people, who were once living in a village to living in a place where they are forced to interact every day. I don’t think having to adapt is necessary a bad thing, I just find it interesting how much of a difference in makes in the local citizens of Thailand who were born and raised in a village to that of people who have branched out of their village in seek of a new and better life.

Community Assessment for the Ban Mai School in Ban Mae Tuen

Community Assessment for the Ban Mai School in Ban Mae Tuen

Kendall Brannen

We left Chiang Mai, Thailand on the 10th day of our trip to strike out on a new journey to find the Ban Mai School located in the small village of Ban Mae Tuen, south of Chiang Mai. Professors Ingle and Kim had not visited the school yet so we did not have much information for what the school needs really were. Having had stories about the disrepair and rundown condition the last village was in when our professors first visited it 5 years ago this May. I had envisioned Ban Mai to be in similar condition. However, I was very surprised upon our arrival to see large, painted and colorful buildings, signage and a small town with shops, a restaurant and other businesses.  The school, which is home to more than 300 students from kindergarten through 6th grade during the Thai school year, was in better condition than I initially had expected but still largely lacking in regular maintenance.

Throughout our three day stay at the Ban Mai School we performed health assessments for each student which included height and weight checks as well as oral, lice and lesion checks with corresponding care given to help treat it. We also worked to repair a concrete step that was in disrepair by removing the old concrete and framing, mixing and pouring new concrete. The new step was a project that will provide a more safe entrance into the cafeteria/eating hall. Lastly, for our service work at Ban Mai we also spend a class period with the children in their classrooms teaching them games that would help work on their English skills and would also encourage class participation. In my group we taught the kids a song that was reinforced with actions so the kids could sing in English as well as act out the words they were singing.

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Bird Lice Check

Teaching Group

Kendall Teaching

Painting 

While working on these service projects we were reminded to keep an open mind about various school needs that we come across and to critically think about creative solutions to those needs. I particularly found myself identifying many needs that could benefit the school and more importantly the school children but it became even harder to sift through the ideas and simplify it down to a few good ideas that were not only sustainable but impactful for years to come.  I did not want to focus on small items that the community could do themselves but rather help on the larger issues that they might not have the capacity to do on their own. The criteria that I used to help me prioritize the list of needs I created was

  1. Is it sustainable for years to come?, Does it help free up time to focus on other projects?
  2. Does it help the largest amount of people?
  3. Is it affordable and can we execute it within the next 3-5 years or less?

Using this criteria of prioritization I was able to narrow down the scope of potential projects that we, as a May term trip, could execute within the timeframe of 3 to 5 years. It also helps to keep our focus on the larger goals that can help the school in areas that may not have otherwise had the capacity to do. One approach to helping a community such as this one is to help with large projects that will in turn free up resources such as labor. This transition from daily needs to more long term project planning will help with community development and can rollover the additional resources into future projects. This type of bootstrapping is a social entrepreneurship solution to small scale community development. If our May Term Thailand group can help with some of the larger projects to help free up their time from all the daily worries then the Ban Mai School can begin to shift focus to more mid and long term planning.

Here is a non-prioritized list of ideas that we brainstormed in a debriefing meeting after we left the Ban Mai School. These are student’s preliminary high level ideas and are not confirmed projects yet.

  • Address clean water storage and collection for year round use
    -Rain water collection system
  • Hygiene and dental care- not just brushing teeth but also keeping cuts clean and taking care of sores
    Annual care packages for incoming students
  • Improving the dorms- better bedding, more beds, better conditions for all (esp the Hmong), and more clothes, shoes
    Clothes washing system for all students to use
  • Mechai’s Pattana School model for gardening
    Teaches planning and teamwork
    Incorporate social entrepreneurship through the program
  • More/better materials for the classrooms- more English texts, more variety than just the workbooks, some basic technology stuff
    After school programs with non-classroom learning focus
    Career exploration, job shadowing, skills training programs, etc
  • Community involvement for future projects
    After school programs/classes where kids get to learn in a more creative way
    Addressing other building maintenance items beyond the cafeteria- lights, roofs, etc.

The next step for this process I think would be to thoroughly vet out the ideas with supporting cost benefit analysis and structure a timeline for implementation of each item. A supporting document such as a strategic plan would be beneficial as a deliverable to the Ban Mai School included with a letter of intent. In the future many of these projects are dependent on the level of student engagement and support for the fundraising that makes the May Term Thailand Service Learning class such a success. As fundraiser dinner coordinator I worked very hard to make this year’s fundraising activities a success, especially with the fundraiser dinner but, not without the help of great students. However, each year a new group of students are in charge of assuming this fundraising role and cannot be expected that every year will be as successful.  In order to keep this class a success and to continue the work we are planning we need to be sure there are successful fundraising for the years to come. I see this as one of the largest weaknesses of the program.

I hope to somehow stay engaged in more work like what we have begun in Ban Mae Tuen, Ban Mai School. I see a lot of future need with social entrepreneurship and business education within the community to help maximize the community’s potential and resources. I think through community education and town hall meetings businesses can really thrive once informed and empowered.  And with social entrepreneurship properly implemented beneficiaries such the community can really thrive from better education of the Ban Mai School education the next generation of business savvy social entrepreneurs.

Abstract concrete

By Toby Koch

Finally. I was there. After months of anticipation and weeks of traveling I was where I wanted to be; at the Ban Mae Tuen village. I had imagined my time here would be spent searching for water sources that could only be reached by bushwhacking through jungles that Bear Grylls himself would shiver at, drawing out architecturally flawless blueprints for future projects, and conducting in depth community based health assessments with advanced techniques unknown to the common man.

Okay, maybe not quite that drastic, but a man’s mind can be prone to wander. Instead, I found myself hacking away in fascination (and no small amount of frustration) at a giant puddle of gelatinous cement soup, trying to keep it in some kind of pile, accompanied by a few members of our group and an entourage of Thai men hacking away along side me. I, being the all-knowing American, thought to myself, “this is ridiculous, there are ratios and procedures and other fancy stuff that needs to be followed in order to make cement set properly. This pile is random, there are still clumps of dirt in this cement and every bucket of it that we pour unto this porch is different.”

As we continued to add a few more rocks here, some sand there, and buckets of water everywhere; I had an epiphany. “Building this porch doesn’t mean diddly squat. In the end, its just a porch to a cafeteria. It will more than likely hold just fine.We didn’t fly half way around the world to build a porch. We came to build relationships with this village and this school. To show them that we care about the world and the people in it, and that their culture, class and ethnicity shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance, but an opportunity to expand the way we see the world. We are here to show that we don’t know best, that we are equals and that they have as much to give us as we them (if not more).”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Despite my past service experience around the world, I still knew nothing. Perhaps I never will know, but suddenly that pile of gelatinous cement soup suddenly meant a lot more.